Just three months after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced his intent to investigate the circumstances surrounding Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, the state filed criminal charges on Wednesday against two state environmental quality officials and a city utilities administrator for their apparent roles in the crisis. Specifically, the state claims the workers, among other things, tampered with evidence contained in reports on lead levels in city water, conspired to tamper with monitoring reports and violated the Safe Drinking Water Act. The charges filed by the state are serious and carry stiff penalties, including up to two to five years in prison. Even so, Attorney General Schuette, in announcing the charges, maintained that “[t]hese charges are only the beginning” and “there will be more to come – that I [Schuette] can guarantee you.”
In light of the above and also due to the publicity of other alleged water quality crises around the nation (e.g., Hoosick Falls, New York), additional governmental actions, including enforcement activities, to address apparent water pollution problems should be expected. What’s more, affected citizens also may attempt to resolve these matters themselves — by filing citizen suits pursuant to the Clean Water Act or claims under other legal authorities. As a result, suspected or actual water pollution problems should be immediately considered and addressed.
Phillips Lytle LLP has significant experience working with clients to address water quality issues, including, but not limited to, those related to ageing municipal sewer systems, NPDES/SPDES violations and groundwater contamination, and representing clients in federal and state enforcement actions and private citizens suits.